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G.K. Chesterton comes to Thomas More College

By Magdalena Dajka, ‘20

Over the past few years, Thomas More College has been working on a project to evangelize local culture, the Center for the Restoration of Christian Culture. The Center’s stated mission is “to promote a vigorous public witness to the faith in New England.” To that end, the Center organizes lectures and events which foster thought and discussion on good, true, and beautiful things. 

The Center’s latest event was a little more out of the ordinary, as Dr. John “Chuck” Chalberg played the part of Gilbert Keith Chesterton, presenting a lecture titled “What’s Still Wrong with the World.” Having travelled forward in time, Mr. Chesterton entered the room looking as if he had stepped out of a picture, with his voluminous overcoat, hat, eyeglasses, moustache, and swordstick. After telling a few humorous anecdotes about his famed absent-mindedness and size, he turned to the subject of his lecture, based on his book What’s Wrong with the World. What is wrong with the world, indeed? The answer to that question, Mr. Chesterton said, is “I am.” That should be the answer of every one of us, and the lecture could stop right there.

However, he went on to discuss some of the problems of current-day America, looking at them through the lens of his writings and ideas. He deplored the abuse of marriage and the family and reminded the audience that without the family, we are all helpless before the state. Husband and wife make the only voluntary state, the only state that creates and loves its own citizens. Modern society does not appreciate the dignity of motherhood, but what worldly career can be more important than motherhood? It is better to be everything to someone than something to everyone. He pointed out that the tyrants of old invoked the past, but the tyrants of today invoke the future. But the future is a dead thing; we can know nothing of it. If we want excitement we should look to the deeds of our grandparents, not our grandchildren. Tradition is a good thing; it is the democracy of the dead.

Mr. Chesterton then brought in a more personal note, speaking of his brother Cecil, with whom he always argued but never quarreled. After Cecil was killed in World War I, Gilbert made it his fight to restore belief in the Christian duty to be cheerful. He reminded his listeners that despair lies in being weary of joy, not of suffering. He pointed out another thing that is wrong with the world and has gotten worse since his time: the rise of experts. Experts are the modern aristocrats; they claim that they know better, but they are always so busy being experts that they have no capacity for astonishment, for wonder, for gratitude. On that note of wonder, Mr. Chesterton reflected on his travels to America, saying that he was really going to his home of Beaconsfield by way of New Hampshire. Paradoxically, travel is a worthless enterprise unless it narrows the mind, unless it teaches you how grotesque foreigners are, and how good home is, how wonderfully strange Beaconsfield is. 

With that, Mr. Chesterton took off his eyeglasses and moustache and became Dr. Chalberg again. He received much applause, as he had held his audience captivated all evening. President William Fahey concluded the evening with two notes. First, hearkening back to Chesterton’s words that “if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly,” he humorously explained the mission of the Center for the Restoration of Christian Culture as discovering things worth doing and doing them badly. Then, he announced that plans are in place to revive the local Chesterton Society, to the delight of many of those present, as Chesterton’s ideas are worth discussing for more than just one evening.

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